Who says family life in America is in a state of decline?
Why, just last week on Christmas Eve, Hugh Hefner, 84, illustrious founder of the Playboy empire, became engaged to one Chrystal Harris, 24, a Playmate of the Month for December 2009.
It will be the third marriage for "Hef," who has no qualms about tying the knot with a woman young enough to be his great-granddaughter. In fact, in announcing his betrothal on Twitter, the iconic playboy declared it was "the happiest Christmas weekend in memory."
He's not fooling anyone. The man is 84. It may be the only Christmas weekend in memory.
Meanwhile, in his quest to be named Father of the Year, Hef also tweeted that he'd given his two sons from his second marriage the Christmas gift of the complete digital, searchable collection of Playboy magazines. Hef claims his "men's magazine" is not porn, and makes the perfect gift for a father to his sons when they come of age. These particular young men, ages 19 and 20, can find in that database the gift of pictorials of their mother, Kimberley Conrad. (Yuck.)
Wait, I forgot. The American family is in a state of decline.
Is it any wonder the proponents of gay marriage point to our culture's farcical treatment of family life and ask how their alternative could be worse?
The question is a red herring, of course. We won't restore the most crucial foundation of our culture and of society as a whole — namely, the traditional family — by adopting all manner of permutations of family life.
The only way to uphold and strengthen America's families is to recognize how crucial they are to the health and well-being of our nation as a whole and take responsibility to make our own families as healthy and whole as we're able.
Heaven knows, this isn't easy.
This past Sunday marked the Feast of the Holy Family, a day within the Catholic liturgical calendar to honor the nuclear family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Ironically, even this family had to choose a countercultural lifestyle in order to fulfill its mission of holiness.
Is there anyone who doesn't think divorce sounded like a reasonable option to poor Joseph, whose decision to remain with Mary ultimately was made with the help of an angel who appeared to him in a dream? The guy defined "counterculture."
In our day, too, a counterculture family is one that takes the hard road to preserve its foundations of love.
In his homily on Sunday, our priest, the Rev. Joe Krupp, offered a list of attributes of a "holy family":
• Anticipating one another's needs.
• Cherishing each other and not taking our families for granted.
• Forgiving and respecting each other.
• And resisting the temptation to gossip or hold our family members to a standard we ourselves can't keep.
Above all else, Father Krupp reminded us to put God first in our families, and to accept the essential truth of that old cliche, "The family that prays together, stays together."
All of these are simple habits we can adopt to foster the love and harmony that families are meant to embody. It's a short but powerful list, if you think about it.
Sitting in the pew on Sunday, our four children sandwiched between my husband and me, I realized that the message I heard encouraging my own family is the message we all must embrace to rescue a nation whose foundations have grown dangerously unstable.
In 2011, living counterculturally and restoring the strength and unity of our families will also restore our communities, our nation, and ultimately, the world. In the year ahead, I pray that God will build a hedge of protection around your family, and that you'll enjoy all the health, holiness and love that a counterculture family life can provide.
Happy New Year!